The Highest ROI Activity for Advisors
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If you're content with your revenue, income, growth, service levels, team performance, operational efficiency, daily workload, time off and the way you feel, this article isn’t for you. This is for advisors who are ready to unleash their inner game-changer and generate the highest ROI in their practice to make 2023 their best year ever.
Let’s begin with a riddle. There are five frogs sitting on a lily pad. One decides to jump off. How many frogs are left on the lily pad? Chances are, your math skills led you to answer ”four.” But this isn’t a math question.
It’s a life problem.
The correct answer is five frogs. All five frogs are still sitting on the lily pad because, like most people, the frog decided – and probably made a great decision. But so far, it’s still stuck sitting on the lily pad.
Too many advisors are under-performing and, like the frog, sitting on the lily pad wishing for things to be better, while failing to take the leaps needed to make them do so.
And when firms do leap to make investments in technology and human talent, few implement those investments to realize anywhere near the ROI potential they represent. This under-performance isn’t due to a lack of desire; it’s due to a lack of clarity, action and accountability stemming from a poor strategy.
Most advisors – from lifestyle advisors to the leaders of larger firms – have failed to create their desired level of success because they fail to invest in the asset with the greatest return: themselves.
Your potential is your greatest asset
Contrary to every piece of financial advice, my coaching client Michael Kitces stopped maxing out his retirement account over 15 years ago, an almost unheard of move for someone in the frugally focused financial services industry.
Instead, he took the money he’d been contributing and re-invested it in himself – in the form of education, certifications, licenses and coaching – eventually leading to the wildly successful business he owns today, creating returns that far exceeded what his retirement fund would have delivered over the same time horizon.
During a webinar Michael and I did together on how to succeed during challenging markets, he shared how my coaching helped him shift his mindset and create 10x growth for his business. And he’s not the only one. I’ve seen advisor after advisor transform their practices and their lives by investing in coaching to create new levels of success in their business and life.
With coaching, Adam Cmejla experienced 3x growth in three years. Tanya Nichols grew 30% YOY while reducing work hours from 50 to 30, taking Fridays and months off per year. Sidney Divine grew AUM by 75% taking 70 days off (and playing 90 golf games a year!). Kyle Moore grew a $100M firm in under five years.
These advisors were under-performing relative to their potential when they started with a coach, and – like Michael – by shifting their mindsets into a clear, positive, and empowered state, they radically accelerated their success.
They learned to reframe their reservations, got clear about what they needed to do and took confident steps to create the changes that transformed their practices.
Some advisors view consulting and coaching as a luxury for those with bigger bank accounts. Others rationalize they don’t have the time for such things. Some find it difficult to engage in reflection and change because, let’s be honest, it’s uncomfortable. And others can’t overcome the worry that it just won’t work for them.
All those views overlook one important point: Investing in your success is one of the highest-performing asset classes.
This is tough medicine when costs are sharply up while markets are dramatically down, creating an economic double-whammy that’s sure to give advisors pause as they consider how best to invest in their success in the year ahead.
The science of success
Michael’s experience led him to understand how impactful an investment-class mindset is, and a 100-year-old study revealed why. That 1910 Carnegie Institute study determined that success is driven 85% by our mindset, and only 15% by other factors (knowledge, environment, skills).
Our brains take in 11 million bits of information a second, but can only consciously process 50bps, leaving the rest of the work to happen behind the veil of our consciousness. We have primitive survival systems that ensure that we eat, breathe, and run when necessary. In the space between these primitive systems and our conscious thoughts is our subconscious.
To save us from hungry saber tooth tigers, our subconscious brain is hard-wired for survival. It’s our conscious brain that conceives and creates our plans and steps we’ll take to pursue them. The issue is that our subconscious mind is leading the way 95% of the time. By the age of 35, we are a hard-wired set of programs (thought and behavior habits), 95% likely to behave today the same way we did yesterday.
For a simple example of a survival mindset, think of a time when a prospect asked you for a discount. What was your immediate response? Most advisors instinctively offer to reduce their fees to ensure they get the client.
But does this make rational sense? The prospect has spoken to you, chosen to invest time meeting with you, and decided they value what you have to offer. They’ve said, “We think there’s value in what you can do for us… just not as much as you do. Instead of paying your full fee for that value, I’d like to pay 25% less than everyone else, and still receive the same level of service because I believe my not wanting to pay your fee means you should discount it and still happily serve me with your very best whenever I call just like those other clients who weren’t smart enough to ask for a discount.”
If you (like every other advisor) were conditioned to believe that saying ”yes” is the only right answer, that all revenue is good revenue, and that saying ”no” will somehow result in negative consequences for you, your stories will graciously step in to save you from yourself. In that split second, your story convinces you to say ”yes” … but you inevitably regret it later.
Governed by our stories and primitive survival systems, our first impulse is to see the problem, not the possibility. We’re hard-wired this way to ensure our survival. But the systems designed to keep us from dying also keep us squarely stuck in the status quo.
There is no shortage of reasons to remain stuck on the lily pad. But when we’re brutally honest with ourselves, few of those reasons hold up under serious scrutiny.
The advisors and leaders I coach experience such radical results because they learned the secret to unleashing their inner game-changer: They learned to think differently and get clear on what they need to do to tap into far more of their business potential.
In one of our calls, Kitces reflected on one of the shifts that set the stage for that nosebleed growth: “I realized I hit limits where I couldn’t grow further without completely breaking the way I was currently doing things.”
I call this coaching lesson how to “break things on purpose.”
One of my favorite ways to shake people out of their comfort zones is with a ”double-down” exercise designed to push their possibilities past their conditioned boundaries.
Find a quiet, private place where you will not be interrupted. All you need to bring to this space is a pen, paper and an open mind.
Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe slowly and deeply for one full minute. Set a timer. It will feel longer than you expect, and you need the full minute to oxygenate your brain and shift into a calmer, more conscious and intelligent state.
Follow these steps:
- Write down your current revenue, income, hours worked per week, and days off per year.
- Write down your deep-down goals for those same items (ignore the voices and don’t worry about how; just write down what you wish it could be).
- Double it. Double everything you wrote down. If that doesn’t scare you, double it again.
- Keep breathing.
- As the voices in your head share with you all the reasons you can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t know how, don’t stop them. Give them the run of the house.
- Write down everything that comes to mind. No judging, analyzing, or solving. Simply write down the “stucking” thoughts that run through the corridors of your mind.
If you’re human, somewhere in this exercise your primitive survival systems, to keep you safe, supplied many reasons to support the safe conclusion you should stay on the lily pad rather than stick out your neck. As you review what you wrote, ask yourself what stories in those lines shrink you and which support you? After this exercise, one of my group coaching clients realized that he harbored the story that doubling would create too much complexity and consume his life. This was reinforced by a belief that delegating to others was selfish, lazy, or both. This showed up in his practice in the form of uncertainty and procrastination that kept him from acting. After the double-it exercise, he doubled in two years and is on track to double again in two more. With your double-it sheet in hand, ask:
- What issues have I tolerated?
Where are you underperforming? Has your sense of purpose petered out? Are service demands suffocating you and your staff? Are your brand and growth strategy doing the job? Are you making too little for how hard you work? Unable to let things go without creating more problems to solve? Unable to take time away?
Until we’re clear on the problems, we can’t get clear on the solutions.
- Why have I let these issues/conditions continue?
Find the real ”why” behind your problem. Are you unable to define your brand and build that website because you just can’t choose from the sea of potential prospects on which to focus? Or does your hesitation harbor a belief that being selective slows your growth even though it can start skyrocketing? Has your inability to let go kept you from leveraging people, processes, and platforms and being consistent, efficient, and reliable? When we get clear on the reasons we tolerate our conditions instead of changing them, we are able to address the real issues holding us back.
- What steps do you need to take to achieve the desired outcome?
Whatever gaps exist between your current and desired future state create a clear roadmap for change. If discounting your fees, doing work for free, or taking clients that don’t fit your minimums is keeping you too busy to grow revenue and hire support to leverage your time, that recognition can now lead to decisive action.
Getting clear on the gaps between your current and desired future state clarifies what you need to account for and give your attention to effect the desired change and achieve your goals. It just so happens that, given we’re hard wired to stay on the lily pad, finding this level of clarity, knowing what to change and how to change it and executing on it while running a practice is challenging. Coaching, wherever you get it, helps you get clear, focused and to work. Why tough times are the best times Advisors are dealing with challenging markets, revenue declines and an uncertain economy. As you’ve learned, it’s precisely when things are most uncertain that our brains strike into survival mode and call on us to be more conservative – which is precisely why tough times are the best times to invest in yourself and your future success. While it sounds counterintuitive, that’s exactly the time we should be focusing on the shifts in our mindset and methods, not simply to get through but to grow and improve. Market downturns represent significant growth opportunities for firms positioned to capitalize on them, and those firms benefit more during the recoveries that follow. Instead of asking yourself how you’re going to get through the rocky markets and uncertainties ahead, shift your thinking to a more empowered state and ask yourself, “Where can I invest my time, energy and capital to make 2023 my best year ever?” Then, get clear, get focused and get to work.
Stephanie Bogan is a high-performance business coach and Founder of Limitless Adviser Coaching. You can learn more at LimitlessFA.life and download a replay of 7 Shifts to a Wildly Successful practice. You can follow Stephanie on LinkedIn or Twitter at @steph_bogan or email [email protected]